Tuesday, January 17, 2017

437th session has more business laws


The 437th session of the Maryland General assembly convened on January 11, 2017 and will run for the next ninety days. Before the session started two news stories came out in December that will affect Maryland business and, as always, these things tend to hit small business owners in some way.

Governor Hogan, who has been a strong proponent for Maryland business, big and small, announced on December 7, 2016, that he plans on proposing mandatory paid sick leave in his legislative package. Under his proposal, businesses that have at least 50 employees will be required to offer paid sick leave totaling at least 40 hours a year and the ability for employees to roll over a maximum of 40 hours each year. Part-time employees would be covered after a minimum of 30 working hours and seasonal industries would be exempt if workers are employed for less than 120 days in a 12-month period. Small businesses, with less than 50 employees, who offer paid sick leave, would be eligible for tax relief.

During the announcement Governor Hogan said, “While all of us agree that more workers need sick leave in Maryland, it would be irresponsible to put a law on the books that unfairly penalizes our state’s job creators. It is clear that, in order to move forward, we must strike a balance between the needs of Maryland’s employees while not hurting our small businesses and continuing to foster a more business-friendly climate in our state.”

On December 20, 2016, news broke that five retailers who do business in Maryland agreed to end “on call” scheduling. This type of scheduling is not what one would commonly define as being available to be recalled to work. No, this type of on call means that employees must call their employer an hour before a scheduled shift to find out if they are required to work that day. If not, they are not paid for that shift, even though they may have been scheduled or planning to work.  

Aeropostale, Carter's, Disney, PacSun and Zumiez stopped the practice after an inquiry from attorneys general in Maryland, New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. In part, the inquiry stated that unpredictable schedules make it difficult for retail employees to work a second job, pursue an education, or care for family members.

The Maryland gubernatorial election is in 2018 and you can expect the political posturing to start this legislative session. Hang on, because this ride is always bumpy. We’ll see what comes out in April.

Monday, January 2, 2017

How to buy a gun in Maryland

Note: This post was originally published on January 28, 2016 and has been updated with new information.

Buying a handgun (regulated firearm) in Maryland just got easier, at least the process is easier. The Firearm Safety Act of 2013 added steps to the purchase process, but it also included language that the Maryland State Police must create an electronic purchase application that can be submitted online. Beginning January 1, 2017, all handgun purchase applications must be submitted through the Maryland State Police Licensing Portal.

Handgun purchase history

The impetus to first write this post in January 2016 was in response to a friend’s question as to how to buy a handgun in Maryland. The question may seem silly coming from an avid hunter who owns firearms of all kinds and has purchased handguns in the past. But, if you haven’t bought a handgun in the last three years Maryland laws changed in 2013 and the process is quite different than it has been for the last twenty years.

You haven’t been able to go into a gun store in Maryland and walk out with a handgun for fifty years. In 1966, Maryland enacted laws that required a background check and a seven-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns. The purchaser completed a personal questionnaire and the form was submitted to the Maryland State Police (MSP) to conduct the background check. If you cleared the check, and seven days had passed, the store could transfer the gun to the buyer. That part of purchasing a gun hadn’t changed for a generation of gun buyers, until 2000.

The Responsible Gun Safety Act of 2000 added the requirement that purchasers must complete a firearms safety class prior to purchasing a gun. The buyer still completed the forms, which were submitted to the MSP for a background check, and waited seven days, but before the buyer could obtain the gun they had to complete a certified firearms safety-training course.

Purchase Process

The process changed most recently in 2013. The Firearm Safety Act of 2013 added another step to the purchasing process. A prospective buyer must now possess a Handgun Qualification License (HQL). As part of the HQL application process the buyer must submit to a fingerprint background check, submit an application for a HQL to the MSP, and complete a four-hour Firearms Safety Training Course presented by a State approved instructor. The HQL is good for ten years and costs $50. However, the application cannot be submitted without digital fingerprints, the cost of which vary by vendor and is in addition to the HQL fee.

Also included in the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 was the requirement that the MSP create an electronic application. Purchase applications will no longer be submitted on paper forms via the firearms dealer. The prospective purchaser will submit applications through the Maryland State Police Licensing Portal. All the fees remain the same, including the $10 application fee, which is paid at the time of the application submission. If the purchaser does not have access to a computer, Internet, or credit card, the application may be submitted through a firearms dealers’ on site portal. The online application goes directly to MSP and removes the dealer for the submission process.

Now to answer the question-How to buy a handgun in Maryland?  Another four pages could be written, but to be succinct, the prospective buyer must complete the following process.
  1. Obtain digital fingerprints
  2. Submit digital fingerprints to the MSP
  3. Submit application to the MSP for HQL
  4. Complete Firearms Safety Training Course
  5. Receive HQL card
  6.  Complete the online Application to purchase handgun through the MSP portal
  7. Wait seven days
  8. Go to the firearms dealer, supply the dealer with your last name as used on the application and the unique 77R-E application number
  9. The Dealer logs into the MSP Licensing Portal and queries the system for the last name and application number combination provided
  10.  If the application has be approved the dealer may transfer the gun

You now own a handgun. Of course, Maryland’s one gun a month law is still in effect. So if you desire to own another gun you have to wait thirty days. The subsequent purchases would be easier as you already have your HQL. You would only need to complete and submit the new application to the MSP and wait the seven days.

Of course, with any law there are exceptions. There are exceptions to the training component and to the need for a HQL. For more, the Maryland State Police, Licensing Division, provides a detailed explanation of the Handgun Qualification License process on it’s website.